It is a good idea to arrive at your treatment wearing loose and comfortable clothing. Avoid eating in the half hour before you come, but also make sure that you’ve had enough to eat that you won’t be feeling hungry. The treatment will be very relaxing, and hunger can be a big distraction!
The first part of your treatment will consist of establishing your diagnosis or “pattern of disharmony”. There are four basic examinations used to determine this diagnosis: questioning, visual inspection, listening, and palpating.
Questioning is one of the most important methods used to find out how your signs and symptoms relate to each other. Each symptom must be looked at in relationship to the whole mind, body and spirit. A lot of time is spent in the questioning phase of your treatment — no one can know your body as well as you do. Questions will address your sensations of heat and cold, patterns of sweating, pain, bowel and bladder function, emotions, and other relevant information to your condition.
Visual inspection includes looking at facial color, skin, areas of pain, and most importantly – the tongue. In Chinese medicine the tongue is the mirror of the body. Harmony and disharmony can be seen in the color of the tongue body, its size and shape, the color and thickness of the tongue coating, moistness or dryness of the tongue, and any abnormalities on the tongue. The tongue reflects not only your overall state of health, but also the functioning of specific organ systems. The tongue should not be looked at as an absolute indicator when diagnosing (many of us have genetic abnormalities in our tongues), but when taken as part of an overall pattern, the tongue offers strong clues to the location of disharmony.
Listening includes hearing the sound and quality of a person’s speech, breathing, and cough. For example, a loud voice or cough can indicate an “excess” condition, whereas as soft or weak voice or cough indicates deficiency. In Chinese, the same character is used for “listening” and “smelling”. The practitioner may also ask about odors — a strong stench indicates excess and heat, whereas a weaker odor indicates deficiency and cold.
Palpating includes gently touching the abdomen, acupuncture points, or areas of the body where there is pain, but primarily refers to the Chinese medicine practice of feeling the pulse. Pulses are evaluated in three positions on the wrist at a superficial, middle, and deep level. The pulse is felt for speed and for qualities which include: floating, slippery, choppy, wiry, tight, thin, and many others. These pulse qualities can indicate the condition of qi, blood, and body fluids as well as imbalances in the internal organs.
Once these four examinations are complete, your “pattern of disharmony” will be determined and treatment will begin. The primary treatment modalities used are acupuncture and Chinese herbalism, but treatment also may include dietary therapy, massage, movement exercises (known as Tai Chi or Qi Gong), moxibustion, or cupping. Cupping is a method where glass or bamboo cups are suctioned at points along the back in order to enhance to flow of qi or to release a pathogen which is still in the exterior of the body (such as in the early stage of a cold or flu).
Treatment is aimed at bringing the body into balance and restoring harmony to the body, mind, and spirit.